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When gas prices exceeded $4 per gallon last year, “going green” took on a renewed urgency. Transportation companies were being asked to produce “sustainability statements” explaining what program they have in place to offset the greenhouse gases they produce.
Large corporations added sustainability departments and officers and, along with their mission statements, put forth sustainability statements. These officers looked at every aspect of the corporate environment for ways to go green.
One of the first targets of their initiatives was corporate meetings. Teleconferencing emerged at the forefront of reforms, with large sales conferences being replaced with virtual meetings. Those meetings that remained in-person looked more to using buses than sedans to move large groups.
Fast forward to today. Gas prices are down. The economy is tanking and the new buzzword of the day is “survival.” Are “sustainability” and “survival” able to live in the same environment? Is it still the time to jump on the sustainability bandwagon if you don’t have a program? Can having a program garner your company any additional business? And is the cost of having a sustainability program recoverable in additional revenue? We asked operators who have made major investments in sustainability to elaborate.
TAKING THE LONG VIEW
METROPOLITAN TRANSPORTATION COMPANY (MTC), based in Westchester, N.Y., has leaped into green on a grand scale. Trevor Franklin, president and CEO of MTC Limousine & Corporate Coach, Inc., says a commitment to sustainability doesn’t mean that you focus solely on environmental issues.
“Your focus should be on what the United Nations 2005 World Summit referred to as the ‘interdependent and mutually reinforcing pillars’ of sustainable development: economic development, social development, and environmental protection,” he says.
MTC translates sustainability to mean profit, planet, and people. “We have rolled out our programs, and we’ve added a fourth theme: perception,” Franklin says. “If we don’t manage all three types of capital — economic, human and natural — and don’t help educate our customers and partners on what we are doing to change perceptions, we simply won’t survive,” Franklin says. “I still don’t understand why people look at “green” as spending more money. It simply isn’t. It is about spending less than we take in, using fewer resources than nature is able to replenish, and having respect for the people we work with and for. It isn’t business as usual.”
MTC has invested in a carbon off-set program. “Carbon offsetting costs money, but we’ve been able to buy our projects well, and the incremental revenue that our offset program has driven is, in a bad economy, huge,” Franklin says.
For example, a 30-mile ride to the airport costs about 10 cents to offset the CO2 generated, Franklin says. “I don’t know how much goodwill and visibility you can build for 10 cents. If GE and IBM and hundreds of other companies see value in carbon offsetting, then I’d have to be crazy not to give them what they understand and want.”
MTC believes that having a sustainability program will get you business over a competitor who does not have one. “We moved 500 people in and out of a meeting in Dubai late last year,” he says. “We earned the business because we could not only save them money by managing vehicles and passengers to reduce cost, but we could also measure and report the environmental impact that their transportation would have and had a plan for reducing the emissions.”